By Carlton Gaye-Sleh Diahn
February 22, 2011
I had the opportunity of being part of an audience that was addressed by one of our prominent Liberian opposition leaders. As popular as this person is, he spoke to the sentiments and emotions of the audience, not daring to venture in the area of the hard truth. This has been observed time and time again across our Liberian political spectrum.
Politicians are now approaching the electoral process like some present day pastors are dealing with their Sunday’s sermons. It’s no secret that there are some pastors now a days that shy away from preaching the actual lessons of the scriptures and their sermons are gear towards maintaining their congregation and winning more members at the expense of Biblical teachings. Isn’t it ironic that a gay/lesbian, a thief, or even a sinner like me can go to church and leave without any one sense of guilt? I remembered years back it was never that way; a pastor didn’t care whether a member left his church because he was preaching the truth that his member didn’t want to hear. There was a time back in the days that I will sit in that pew and as the pastor preached that I thought he was speaking directly to me. I would’ve thought he knew some of the sins that I committed before coming to church. Many of our churches aren’t like that anymore.
Now, this is the similarity that I find with the scenario just discussed to that of our present Liberian politicians; if one decides to run for the office of president in a post war nation, he or she will at least be abreast with the history of other post war nations. This will be the obvious. Therefore, why are our politicians downplaying the task involved? Why are they only playing to the sentiments of the masses? Why are they ignoring the hard reality of post war nation building? Why are they hiding the truth at the expense of the suffering masses? Why they are only sugar coating the truth? These are important questions that our politicians need to address since they want to lead us. Instead, we hear rhetoric upon rhetoric as though Liberia don’t have other important issues that are vital to our recovery. Anyone not knowing the recent history of Liberia after listening to some of our politicians will think that this nation doesn’t pressing issues or a lot to recover from. This shouldn’t be the case; our people must be told about sacrifices that have to be made, the tough journey to recovery. This must be the story; our people must be adjusted and ready to embark on this road that some of them didn’t choose.
There is a truth that these politicians don’t want to mention. In their rhetoric, there is this truth that most of them dare not to mention. Maybe, telling this truth will not be too good for their election prospects and it may provide reason for people to minimize their anger towards this government. These politicians are people of high intellects, reputable characters, and efficient and sufficient capacities to discern, except for a very few. So, why are most politicians not venturing with this truth? Better yet, if this truth is told, it may only buttress what this government has been telling us all along, so the easy thing to do is tell the people what they want to hear and ignore this truth. Now, what exactly is this truth? I call it “THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH.” This is the truth of any post war nation before us and after us, it is a hard reality. This is the truth that is deeply rooted in the consciousness of reality; it is bitter to swallow and is easy to avoid. This truth requires sacrifice, enduring pain, and exercising patience. This is true in any post war nation, it was true in Beirut, it was true in the Balkans, it was true in Nigeria, and it was also true in many other countries the world over, and it must be true for us here in Liberia.
Beirut, Lebanon once regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world is still recovering from the ruins of war. More than decades after the war in Lebanon, the recovery process is still ongoing. It was never easy and it continue to not be easy, they are not there yet, but they do see prospects and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. They didn’t just sit by complacently and hope for miracles. No, look around the world, look in Africa, look specifically around you here in Liberia, the Lebanese are all over, they are working hard and they take their earnings back to help rebuild their country. Talk to some of them, ask them if it was an easy transition, they will each have their own story. The Balkans, that includes Bosnia, Croatia, and others, they are still recovering with all the millions of dollars pump in every year by EU and the U.S. their recovery process is still ongoing. Nigeria after the Biafra war more than 35 years ago is still recovering and hasn’t reached their full potential. Why aren’t our politicians telling us these stories? Instead, they tell us how wonderful and a different country Liberia will be if we elected them. I tell you if any of our politicians had a miracle to bring about a sudden end to the sufferings of our people; it is my strong belief that this president will welcome such an idea. But the contrary is true; no one has an instant cure to this nightmare. We must all work together; let’s help prop up this government. Any success from this government will benefit all of us and that should be our goal. Let us think Liberia first above all else. We must walk the streets of life each day knowing that we have been reenergized by this strength of nationalism and patriotism. We must also ignore the thought that any good thing we do for Liberia will boost the morale of this government. Liberia needed us then but we failed, Liberia needs us now and we must meet the challenge, Liberia will need us always so we must be preparing for the future. Truth be told, some of our politicians dare not to venture in this true because they feel it wouldn’t help their chances of been elected and perhaps, re-enforces what the Sirleaf government has been telling us all along: to tie our belts tighter and roll our sleeves because the road to recovery is not a smooth ride, like a pregnant woman, it is painful and endearingly uncomfortable. It is easy to avoid the inconvenient truth and preach the politics of instant recovery, whereby, criticizing government for slow recovery or the lack there of.
I am not here to tell you that this president is a saint or that her officials are all angels singing the wonderful hallelujah hymn. This is so far from it, because the president in her own prudence will be the first to admit that her government does have flaws and there are other aspects of this recovery process that she wish can be a little faster. But what must not go without notice is that there are prospects and some success stories to be told, maybe not to the liking of some. Having visited Liberia recently, I can unequivocally say we are headed in the right direction. Like the U.S recovery and the rest of the world, it is moving at a slower pace than expected. Unlike the U.S., EU and most part of the world, our country was ravaged with serious destruction that crumbled all aspects of our lives, we had no foundation to start on, and we are in a much deeper hole than most nations that are experiencing this down turn called recession. There are those who may with good intend say: the president been there for 6 years and why we still don’t have this or why we still don’t have that? To these people, I understand and am very much empathetic to your frustration. But don’t let your frustration blind you from reasoning and exercising restraints. It took Lebanon more than 35 years and still recovering, the Balkans more than 15 years and still recovering, how can this President rebuilt in 6 years what has taken almost 15 years to destroyed? Let us be a little objective and open minded for a minute. If you had visited or lived in Liberia anytime between 1991 and 2005, just take off your glasses of biasness for minute and put on a lens of objectivity and compare that period with present day Liberia and if you find no difference whatsoever, then I will strongly consider joining your chorus of criticism.
We as Liberians living in the Diaspora and those living in Liberia and elsewhere that are opportune to read or witness history specifically of post war nations should take upon ourselves to help educate the less fortunate amongst us as to what to expect. This government can’t do it alone we all have to join in the process. Our people must be told the hard truth, there will be no roses spread down for us to walk on. The road to recovery is not going to be easy, yes it will be painful and hard let no one tell you otherwise, but other nations before us we through similar experiences and came out successful and strong. If they could do it, we as Liberians with all our resilience can do the same. It’s good to criticize your government, because it’s healthy for democracy and help keep government strong and vibrant. A constructive criticism is good criticism, but when criticism is destructive only for scoring political point at the expense of the masses, then a meal of great injustice is been serve to the citizens. So let us refocus our energy to the upliftment and wellbeing of our Liberian reconstruction period. For the politicians I know it’s going to be hard but do it for the good of this young democracy. Liberians are suffering, yes indeed the masses are hurting, but as painful as it is, it’s the harsh and hard reality of post war. It will only get harder and worst in order for it to get better, and this story must be told by all of us, especially our politicians as inconvenient as it may sound. It is our duty, sacrifice in the true sense of the word is what can get us where we need to be. This President because of time can’t get us there, but she can only lay down the foundation and road map that future leaders will use to get us there. Our politicians teach us to expect too much too soon, but what are they challenging us to do in our own capacities to speed up the process? I will end by invoking the famous words of this great mind of his generation, President John F. Kennedy, and he said “ASKED NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.”